In the UK I stumbled across a pretty store in the village of Didsbury, Manchester. The window display stood out among the gaudy chicken shops and cider-smelling bars.
Showcasing semi-precious rocks and remedies in glass containers, the irresistible smell of freshly baked soda bread, drew me inside.
New Age shops are the lived experience of an online ‘spirituality’ empire.
They present a pleasant antidote to the toxic and isolating experience of this increasingly dystopian decade. These stores specialise in ‘healing’ treatments for the body and soul – scented mood change candle anyone?
I have watched in disturbed, fascination as brothers and mostly sisters become enamoured with a world of mantras and the cult of ‘self-esteem.’ Of endless workshops and courses whose roots of which they have no idea.
As my timeline fills with more and more Muslims selling occult ideologies as ‘cures’ I now feel I must speak out.
Welcome to the World of New Ageism
The sales rhetoric for these ‘self-help’ or ‘life coaching’ businesses is brutal and non-stop.
‘Your FREE slot is closing SOON!’.
‘Sign up now for FREE and heal your heart!’
Families living in Muslim minority nations are in a crisis of pain as the neo-liberal social agenda, clashes with our faith values.
Our kids are coming home confused about everything from the existence of God, to their own gender – causing confusion and doubt in member after member of our community. So I asked myself as these treatments become more widely available: ‘What is it about them that I recognise from my life before Islam?
My father was a ‘lapsed’ Catholic. From the early 1960s, he embraced a growing movement, dedicated to exploring the power of the mind. An East-to-West phenomenon based on Hindu and Buddhist traditions that could not influence the Muslim world. Until now.
There are terms coming up which are really significant. I’m sure you will recognise them. Perhaps without the context of their origins or their deeper meanings.
Transcendental meditation, sometimes referred to as TM, draws on ancient, Vedic religious traditions traceable to India and dating back thousands of years.
Popularised by a Hindu monk, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, it was carried even further in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (one of his disciples). The Yogi’s link to The Beatles ensured TM spread across the West sixty years ago, setting up city centres from London to Los Angeles.
Europe, meanwhile, had its own indigenous movement which would collide with the Hindu foundations to become the forerunner to the self-help industry as we know it today.
Muslims now routinely call on one another to ‘meditation self-help’ groups. Is it really safe to use the term interchangeably with Islamic ‘reflection’ tadabbur?
In the late 19th century Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian author and cofounder of the Theosophical Society believed those who embraced Buddhist and Brahmanic notions (such as reincarnation) should assist the evolution of the human race.
Theosophy, which has societies sprinkled across the globe, maintains that all religions contain a portion of a larger truth.
“There are no dogmas, no doctrines, nobody has to believe anything. It’s above religion,” says Lyn Trotman, the New York society’s president.
Blavatsky was accused of faking miraculous events associated with her contact with the Ascended Masters. Denounced as a charlatan, a Russian spy and a humbug profiteer, her Society suffered a series of sex scandals involving its leaders. Yet, her ideas and writings have helped shape the New Age movement.
Which should leave you and I relieved right? After all none of us are going anywhere near reincarnation and that kind of stuff, insha’Allah.
But we may be easily hooked by clever sales techniques when in the half-daze of our scroll time. This makes us open to suggestions and the kinds of ‘click-purchases’ which can lead us down a rabbit hole, far away from recognisable tawheed.
A 2004 paper researched contemporary globalization exhibiting five main trends in spirituality and religion, including;
– Increasing attempts to harness religion and spirituality as means toward reterritorialization. Meaning that people within a place start to produce an aspect of popular culture themselves, in the context of their local culture and make it their own.
This may look like a Muslim in Malaysia who is missing Salah but never misses their daily affirmation ‘You have the power within you to change your life’ repeating this 50 times a day.
-The integration of spirituality into all aspects of life.
– A greater thrust toward the individualisation of spirituality among ‘consumers’. No need for a mosque let alone the concept of Ummah. These ideas place the enhanced role of cyberspace in the spiritual domain.
Harmonising the easy flow of ideas between groups, without anyone doing too much critical thinking about it. These trends affect the quality of life as well as the relationship between governments and markets.
Our souls and their connection to Allah ta’ala are a market of interest to bodies far beyond the innocent sisters and brothers being drawn into this web.
Islamic spirituality is being morphed and monetised
New Ageism concepts are being monetised to the Muslim world by hooking them to traditional Islamic tenets. Amazon offers ‘Names of God’ decks of cards. These use the 99 Names of Allah to supposedly create a ‘vibration of God’ in your life. The instructions on one deck costing an eye-watering $117 include the following;
‘Say the name aloud. Close your eyes and see it with your third eye and draw it into your spiritual heart. Repeat this for 40 days and during the 40 days after that, whatever you do will stabilize.’
I have been asked about my ‘star sign’ 3 times in recent months by Muslim sisters, who are wholly offended when I refuse to play along. I could easily answer with the phrase ‘Cancer with Leo rising actually.’
But you see, having grown up in a non-believing household I know full well that these innocent-seeming practises, at their heart, reject the existence of an All Seeing Lord, interacting with the world and ourselves at every moment.
New Age activities divert focus onto the idea of energy put out by ‘The Universe’ and embodied by ourselves. We are ‘gods’ in this scenario.
My parent’s attempts to ‘manifest’ riches into their life ended in tragedy. Turning their backs on the love of God and playing with spell casting bought nightmares for my parents and me. They were usually about burning. In one, smoke was seen coming from my mother as she slept.
November 1979, my father was set alight outside the front door of our apartment. I was on the other side of the door alone. I heard him burn almost to death outside our front door. He was screaming over and over again: ‘Oh God, oh God, oh God.’
In a post-Christian West, love, light and purity, are big business. The self-help strand alone of this economy is worth billions.
Watch your timeline carefully. There is more than your bank balance at stake.
Narrated Ibn Umar: The Prophet said, “The keys of the unseen are five and none knows them but Allah: (1) None knows what is in the womb, but Allah: (2) None knows what will happen tomorrow, but Allah; (3) None knows when it will rain, but Allah; (4) None knows where he will die, but Allah (knows that); (5) and none knows when the Hour will be established, but Allah.”
Next time – Mantras, Magic and Manifestations
To read Lauren’s piece on the Spiritual Malware of Hajj, click here.
Lauren Booth is a highly sought-after writer, influencer and media trainer. Her one-woman stage play ‘Accidentally Muslim’ received acclaim at the world’s largest Arts fair, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She hosts a series on her youtube channel and her best-selling audiobook, In Search of a Holy Land, can be purchased here.